Doug Peterson had just finished his first postgame speech as Pickerington North girls soccer coach Aug. 16 and was dismissing his players when assistant coach Mark Gerhard stopped them from leaving.
He pointed at Peterson and reminded the Panthers that their 3-0 win over Marysville was his first win as head coach, and several players responded with a chant of "Petey! Petey!"
Peterson flashed a wide smile and told his players he wanted that to be the first of many celebrations this season for the Panthers, who hope to continue their winning ways despite graduating a talented class that included a two-time first-team all-state forward in Alicia Donley.
Junior forward Tori Haggit scored twice against the Monarchs and junior forward Jackie Norris added an insurance goal in the second half for North, which took a 1-0 record into an Aug. 21 home game against New Concord John Glenn.
Peterson had been an assistant coach for 15 of the program's first 16 seasons before taking over for Greg Van Kannel in April. Van Kannel resigned in November after going 180-32-16 overall and 60-5-3 in the OCC-Ohio Division in 11 seasons.
"This is completely different," Peterson said. "I am easing into it and realizing it was a lot easier to be an assistant coach than it is to transition to a head coach. I like it. I enjoy being with the girls all the time, but there's a little extra stress. The administrative side of things is a world unto itself.
"It's a good program. Greg had a great program and following in those footsteps is hard, daunting, even, but it feels comfortable out here because I know the girls and I'm used to them."
Last season, North went 15-2-3 overall and 4-0-1 in the OCC-Ohio to tie Gahanna for the league championship. The Panthers also won a district title before losing to Watterson 2-1 in a Division I regional final.
Haggit had 10 goals last year, tying for third on the team with classmate Claire Combs, a midfielder. Donley, who now plays for Tennessee, scored 19.
"(Haggit) is a phenomenal player," Peterson said. "She has great feet. She works harder than almost everybody on the field. I think people know when we play them, she is one of their targets to watch, for sure."
Other top returnees include seniors Lindsi Filippi (midfielder), Haley Moore (defender) and Zoey Thomas (midfielder).
Junior Drew Ultican is the starting goalkeeper.
Rounding out the roster are seniors Lauren Brown (defender), Jada Leyland (defender/forward) and Cadence Placie (defender), juniors Morgan Dragich (forward), Serenity Mason (forward), Payton Tackett (defender/forward) and Kara Thomas (defender), sophomores Adriana Marcum (midfielder) and Kate Mizer (midfielder) and freshmen Cate Pickering (defender) and Sofia Walton (goalie).
North begins league play Sept. 10 at Pickerington Central.
"We're strong in a lot of places," Peterson said. "That said, there are things we need to clean up everywhere."
Boys soccer team sets lofty goals
The boys soccer team is not lowering its goals coming off the best season in program history, despite returning only three starters and losing two all-state honorees.
Seniors Reece Allbaugh (forward), Cory Pulles (goalie) and Antonio Zarate (forward) are back from last year's team that won its third consecutive OCC-Ohio championship and the first Division I district title in program history. The Panthers went 18-2 overall and 5-0 in the league and lost to Olentangy Liberty 2-0 in a regional semifinal.
Allbaugh, senior midfielder Duvall Brannon and junior midfielder Tyler Reitano each had a goal in North's season-opening 3-1 win at home over Marysville on Aug. 16. Reitano broke a 1-all tie with 9 minutes, 44 seconds left.
"We had a terrific preseason," 17th-year coach Darrin Monhollen said. "We've had very good team chemistry and unselfish play. When you look at somebody like Reece Allbaugh, you think about somebody who is a potential star. He's unselfish. Last year, he moved back and played more of a defensive center midfielder role, which was selfless on his part because that's where he fit nicely. This year, he'll be more of an attacker, a central midfielder."
Allbaugh had 15 goals last season, second behind 2019 graduate Will Harr's program-record 27. Harr and classmate Brayden Durbin, who scored 12 goals, both were named second-team all-state and split league Player of the Year honors with Allbaugh.
Durbin and Harr now play at Ohio State and Ohio Dominican, respectively.
"We have to step up as leaders to make sure the younger kids play smart and are ready to play and aren't nervous," Allbaugh said. "As the year goes on, everybody will get stronger."
Rounding out the roster are seniors Abel Andebrham (midfielder), Cade DeMattio (defender), Jason Grispino (midfielder), Emery Mast (midfielder), Quentin Shalawylo (midfielder), Connor Socolik (defender), Ian Socolik (defender), Cameron Williams (forward) and Jon Zeiher (forward), juniors Ty Bowden (goalie) and Alex Watros (midfielder), sophomores Aaron Artica-Sanchez (defender), Zack Garcia (midfielder), Uche Odemana (midfielder), Hayden Stevens (defender) and Donovan Williams (defender) and freshman Henry Sanders (midfielder).
North begins OCC-Ohio play Sept. 10 at Central. The Panthers finished well ahead of runners-up Gahanna and Grove City (both 2-1-2) in the league last season.
"We've talked about playing in very much a team concept. When you have a younger team, it makes you coach a little bit more," Monhollen said. "We're willing to be patient, but success does take a little of the patience away."
Below are the coming schedules for the North cross country, boys golf, girls golf, boys soccer, girls soccer, girls tennis and girls volleyball teams:
Aug. 24 -- Pickerington Classic at home
Aug. 27 -- OCC-Ohio at Denison Golf Club
Aug. 24 -- Fall Open at New Albany Links
Aug. 26 -- Olentangy and Olentangy Liberty at Oakhaven
Aug. 28 -- OCC-Ohio at New Albany Links
Aug. 22 -- Home vs. Thomas Worthington
Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Groveport
Aug. 24 -- At Medina
Aug. 27 -- At Groveport
*Aug. 22 -- At Pickerington Central
Aug. 23 -- At Cincinnati Ursuline
Aug. 24 -- At Cincinnati St. Ursula
*Aug. 27 -- Home vs. Gahanna
Aug. 28 -- Home vs. Olentangy Liberty in makeup from Aug. 13
Aug. 22 -- At Dublin Coffman
Aug. 27 -- At Groveport